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Arsenal goes top after beating Newcastle

Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Getty Images

Olivier Giroud's header sent Arsenal into the new year at the top of the Premier League.

NEWCASTLE, England (AP) -- Olivier Giroud ensured that Arsenal will finish the year atop the Premier League standings by scoring the winner for the Gunners in a 1-0 win at Newcastle on Sunday.

The France striker ended a run of seven matches without a goal when he broke the deadlock with a header from Theo Walcott's free kick in the 65th minute. It was Giroud's 11th goal this season.

Arsenal overtook Manchester City to regain top spot in the Premier League with 42 points from 19 matches, with City trailing one point behind.

''There was a big satisfaction because we surprised many people and we want to go from there, we played two away games and got six points against West Ham and Newcastle and as you can see the team is ready for a fight,'' Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. ''Let's keep fighting and trying to develop the team.''

In a scrappy encounter with few chances for both sides, the hosts missed an opportunity to level the score in added time when Hatem Ben Arfa fired a shot wide.

Mesut Ozil missed the game with a shoulder injury, and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he expects the Germany midfielder to be out for Wednesday's game against Cardiff as well.

Wenger's team enjoyed long periods of possession and created several chances early on but was unable to convert them before Newcastle almost went ahead toward the end of the first half when Moussa Sissoko's shot was tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny. Mathieu Debuchy also headed against the bar.

Giroud had a chance to double the lead when Walcott's lob from close range was saved by Debuchy but the Frenchman failed to connect properly with the loose ball.

Newcastle pushed forward toward the end but Alan Pardew's team slipped to just its second loss in 10 Premier League matches.

''We certainly didn't deserve to get beat but a mistake cost us at a set play, and we then had some moments at the end but we have come out with our confidence renewed even though we have lost,'' Pardew said.

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